Last month I suggested musical activities that we can use with kids. Today I have some drama ideas we can add to our parent toolkit. By participating in drama games and activities, our children get the chance to develop their self-confidence and all sorts of communication skills.
Dress-ups: Making sure our kids have access to bits and pieces they can use to play a part is such a simple and effective idea. I'm not talking about elaborate purchased costumes here. At my house, the dress-up box is a laundry basket with some old hats, old clothes and lengths of material and cardboard for creating. Things like these encourage kids to use their imaginations, and that's what drama is all about.
Retelling stories: Acting out scenes from favorite books and movies is natural for many children while others may need encouragement. I have found that by making myself available to be part of the "game", I show support, while being extra careful not to take over. As a teacher, I tended to give kids a nudge in the direction of a game based on a story they knew, then stood back to watch the flowering of their imaginations. Even quite young kids can re-tell a story with a puppet, a toy, or by acting it out. Wise parents understand that this sort of play is yet another way to celebrate reading!
Role-play: This can be as low-key as playing "school" with Junior as the teacher, and Dad as a student. It can also be a powerful tool to use with problems. Role-playing how to thank someone for a gift or deal with a bully really helps kids prepare for difficult situations. Taking on the role of a character like the Wolf in Red Riding Hood helps children gain insights into what they're reading and connect it to the real world.
Puppets: One great thing about puppets is they give shy children an opportunity to speak through something else. You don't need to buy commercial puppets; everyday objects can work just fine. Ask kids to look at things around your home from a new perspective. How would a banana walk and talk? Imagine and create a conversation between a chair and a cushion, or a cheese grater and a spoon. Making puppets is a wonderful project for crafty parents and kids, especially when you use recycled materials. Even young children can create a simple puppet with a card and craft sticks. Commercial puppets can also be transformed with scraps of material to become characters from literature, linking puppets with what children are reading.
Language games: Some of my favorite language games are storytelling games. Word-at-a-time story is one. Ideally you need a group of kids, but it will work with two. Take turns telling a story, one word at a time. Children soon learn that what they say needs to make semantic sense, but may be as wacky and funny as their imagination dictates. Here's an example, if a small group consisted of three children, A, B, and C. A: One B: day C: we A: galloped B: to C: Mars A: on B: our C: bananas.
Improvisation: A simple way to think about improvisation is "making things up as we go along." Children and adults improvise all the time, working out how to solve problems for instance. Teachers and employers prize this sort of creative thinking, and it's another reason I encourage parents to add drama ideas to their toolkit. One simple way to begin an improvisation is by having kids dance around to music, then when the music stops, freeze. At a signal, they come to life as any character they like, moving and speaking as that character. If you have a small group of children, encourage them to make a still picture of a nursery rhyme scene, for example, then come to life and act out the rhyme.
Reader's theatre: Yet another way to reinforce the connection between drama and reading, reader's theatre helps children internalize language and improves reading fluency and comprehension. While a true reader's theatre is a script being read aloud, children enjoy adding dramatic touches by adding props, voices, costumes and short improvised scenes. You can find more information about creating a reader's theatre script at The Book Chook.
Drama classes: As a drama teacher I may not be unbiased, but in my opinion, formal drama classes offer such a lot to kids. Check your local community for availability. You may find some classes will lead to examinations (similar to many music classes), while others are more relaxed, focusing on improvisation and play-building.
I love what drama offers children. Whatever the age or personality type, drama encourages children to think creatively and solve problems. In drama classes there's also a focus on working collaboratively, something most kids can benefit from. But many drama-related activities can be incorporated into family and neighborhood life, making them an ideal part of our parent's toolkit!
What are your favorite drama activities to include in family life? Let us know on the Scholastic Parents Facebook page.